Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Done at Last!

We are back at Windsor Locks. Not a day too soon. We both feel very physically tired from riding such a heavy bike. Now to see if we can get it all back into the bags that brought it here and on to the plane.

Finally a wide, soft seat

We left the Hudson River Valley from Hudson, NY. Summer had finally arrived. Temps were in the 90's and the humidity was too. We had to find a way through the southern end of the Berkshires. We traveled east to a small town, near the MA border, Hillsdale, NY. We were sitting in the shade at the library eating some lunch when a local cyclist started talking to us. Our plan was to ride down a secondary highway, but he convinced us to take an alternate road. What a sweet route it was. We climbed up a moderate hill, where the views were fantastic and there was virtually no traffic, onto a 3 mile rail trail, from the state park, then onto another small road that was shady and quiet. All in all, 15 to 17 miles of quiet roads. It was blissful.

After that we returned to the Hwy, but it had good shoulder, so it was safe even if loud. Oh yes, I should mention that we hit our highest speed of this trip. We descended a long hill. There was a sign at the top warning drivers not to coast, but hey we could never pedal that fast. In a moment of low blood sugar thinking I did not apply the drag brake. I looked down at the speedo and whoa over 53 mph. When we checked the max speed that night it was 56.3. Again images of a front tire flat flash through my mind and I wonder what kind of carnage we would have left on the road. The opportunity arose one more time for a high speed descent the next day, but I wisely kept us to about 45 mph. I don't know if 10 mph makes that much difference on a bike, but it sure feels like it.
We camped that night in a really nice campground just outside of East Canaan, CT. The tent sites are normally $51 a night.(gasp!), but they love cyclists and we were charged a whopping $20. We were in a sunny site and it was hot, but summers in the NE are prone to thunder showers in the late afternoon. Within minutes it clouded over and was very muggy. We stowed everything in the tent and shortly after dark there was an announcement on the campground speakers that a severe thunder storm warning had been issued for the area. One of the seasonal campers that we had talked to a little earlier came over to our tent and told us they were leaving for home, but that we were welcome to seek shelter on their front porch if the weather got too violent. "Feel free to watch our TV," she said. We have actually sat out a thunderstorm before in our tent so we weren't too worried. Marty was actually praying for wind as he felt like he was melting in the heat of the tent. (We later determined that he was pretty dehydrated from the ride and was over heated. He really did not feel well and I was worried that he was getting sick. That would not be good as I am too short to captain the bike.) It rained, but the wind never blew and the storm never really developed. We sweated the night away in the tent.
We woke up to partly cloudy skies, heat, and humidity. Fortunately, we had a short ride into Windsor Locks, but we were not done climbing. Even though this day had less total altitude then the day before, the hills were steeper and even a bit longer. We would slog our way up one long hill, then descend a long hill pretty much all day. By now, we were very good at standing on the bike, so it was sit and grind a bit, stand a bit until we would reach the top. Cars were amazingly patient and gave us plenty of space. I never once felt threatened and it was a pretty busy road. It was however, very scenic so we stopped and got lots of pictures.

Can you spot the cell phone tower?

Here are some of the numbers We rode 1453 miles, climbed over 53,600 feet, and rode for 127.3 hours, but who's counting. We averaged 50.1 miles per day, 4.3 hours ride time per day, and 11.4 mph. Not too bad for a tandem bike that we are pretty sure weighs about 200 lbs without us on it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Down the Hudson River

Hello again!
We are still camping and away from the internet, but that is changing. We are in a room tonight in the city of Hudson New York. Last time we posted in Westport NY, we found after all the campgrounds we have stayed in, the Barber Homestead Park in Westport NY to be the best. All-around great place.

(Lake Champlain from Barber Homestead Camp)

The next day was another short day to Ticonderoga NY. Another scenic area, and a large Fort to boot.

(Ft. Ticonderoga)

As we have traveled down lake Champlain and now the Hudson river, we are finding many of the small towns have nasty steep climbs right at the city limits. Port Henry was the worst, in that it was hidden at first and we had the stand on our creeper gear for several minutes to get up it. We were shaky for a half hour afterward.

The next day was on to Queensbury NY. It was off route by a few miles and is near a Six-Flags amusement park. The roads were grid-locked near the park, but the sidewalks were perfect for us. The next day, a local person told us about the bike trails along the canals in the area. The one we took was a "feeder" canal to the main Champlain canal. They are not paved but were great. Almost no one there except kayaks.

(Champlain Feeder Canal)

From Queensbury we rode to Schatghticote (near Mechanicville) NY. This part of the route is dotted with historic sites from the earliest history of the US. We stopped at the Saratoga Battlefield park.

(Saratoga Cannon)

Just in case you think we are nuts, there are other crazy pastimes that are available. In the campground last night we talked to a group of competitive 100+ year old fire truck people. They tour the east coast to see who's pumper wagon can squirt the furthest. About 200 feet is what 50 people working this one can do. It sounded like a novel excuse to party.

(Pumper Wagon, built in Waterford NY, 1889)

Finally, we cycled through Albany NY today to Hudson NY. Albany (and Troy) reminded me of East Cleveland in many ways. Our tandem really turns heads in the inter-city. We also noticed this dog.... It was on top of the Irish-American museum. We had a long discussion about this.

So we are two days away from the end of the trip in Windsor Locks, CT. As of today we have cycled 1368 miles. We will need a new rear tire. The weather is turning poor for the next day or so, but it should not slow us down. We'll post before we leave.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Montreal and back to the USA

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Hello Again!
Sorry to leave a big gap in the posts. We have been camping more and either had no power, no internet, or no energy. More on the third excuse later. Since the last post in Quebec city, we traveled alaong the St. Lawrence river to Montreal, south to the US border at Rouses Point NY, and then south alaong Lake Champlain. But let me but in some details.
After staying in Quebec city for a few days, we stopped at the information bureau and got some great bike maps. These made leaving the big city very easy on good biking streets. Just as we were enjoying the trail, we encountered a very steep downhill ending in a staircase. The rig does go down stairs, but it takes several trips (Smile)..

After we got down to water level, we enjoyed the scenic flat countryside. This terrain would continue for the next few days. The main route we followed between Quebec and Montreal was green route five, mainly along the old road known as Chemin du Roy. The villages, small towns, and open countrysides was very scenic. The only problem was a headwind, which would grind on us for the next several days.

As a side note, this area has reached a new level in “Children Playing” signs. Esther was very impressed with these.

Our daily stops were in Portneuf, Trois-Rivieres, and St-Sulpice. In Portneuf we met a couple also touring, Martin and Monique. We enjoyed talking with them and Martin had us convinced to take the route through downtown Montreal.

One of the best campgrounds was in St. Sulpice, where we camped at the edge of the St. Lawrence. We camped next to another couple headed for Quebec and we showed them the better way to enter the old city. At least someone can benefit from our mistakes.

The ride through Montreal was on a terrible weather day. Our plan was to take the bike route through town, but the weather changed our plans. It drizzled in the AM and poured in the mid-afternoon. We took refuge from the deluge in a “Tim Hortons.” for about 2 hours. The streets flooded and the visibility was poor, so we changed our plans and took the Jaques Cartier bridge south before town to shorten the ride. Some great views from the bridge, but we were like drowned rats at that point and headed to a motel in Chalmby. We are sorry that we missed the city, but it we were so wet and .....maybe on the next trip….

The next day the weather was sunny and warm! We cycled down the Chalmby Canal, a canal built 100 years ago to link Montreal to New York city. It was very scenic and off road. It was not paved, but the surface was really smooth. Skinny tires would have had no problems with it.

We crossed into the USA at Rouses Point NY, and stayed in Alburg Vermont, on the islands in the center of Lake Champlain. The next day we took the ferry to Plattsburg, NY and on to Keesville. The headwind was very stiff, and we were ground into dust by the end of the day. The sailboats we saw from the ferry were really reefed for the wind

The road along the lake is very scenic, and NY State has a signed bike route all along it (route 9). Our plan is to follow this route at least through Albany. We will then scout a route east through Connecticut back to Windsor Locks.

Lake Champlain

Ausable Chasm

After the last several days of hard cycling, we decided to ease up a little. We are in a campground in Westport, NY tonight (With power, internet AND laundry!) after a shorter day, only 35 miles. The route is great, but the hills are back, we climbed over 2400 feet. The Adirondack Park is beautiful, but has many short and steep rollers. We will persevere….

We will try to do a better job in the next week to keep up with this so that it isn’t so long next time. One week to go and we will make it!